TWB (Novel) Chapter 99

C99

Zachary's expression hardened from the moment Fernand approached to deliver the rose to Bianca.

Fortunately, thanks to his resolute expression in the first place, his displeasure was not openly revealed.

However, as soon as Bianca threw away the rose she had received, a smile slipped onto Zachary's lips, revealing the truth that he was uncomfortable with Fernand's approach. In the end, it was the couple who couldn't control their facial expressions.

Fernand continued to look at Bianca afterwards. It was evident on his face that Bianca's tossing of the rose was also seen as a rejection or an exaggeration due to Zachary's gaze.

"How the hell can you live in such an illusion? Do you really think that having my husband by my side, I would pay attention to a jester as weak as an anchovy?"

Bianca clicked her tongue.

When she remembered Zachary's solid body embracing her, her face blushed.

Of course, in her previous life, she paid more attention to that weak anchovy than to Zachary, but she also regretted that moment more than anyone else.

Bianca buried her face in the table to avoid looking towards the center of the banquet hall where Fernand was, and stuffed food into her mouth.

Seeing her overeating, Zachary dissuaded her with concern.

"Slow down. Here, fill yourself with more wine."

Zachary manually called the attendant and filled Bianca's wine glass. A nobleman, who was observing them, said admiringly,

"I never imagined that Count Arno would be such a loving husband. He is very kind to the countess."

"That's right. He was very romantic at the tournament too. I never imagined the Count knew such romance."

"Is it because the countess is beautiful? It's understandable that Count Arno kept her hidden on the estate until now."

As if everyone was waiting for someone to open the door, the flow of conversation accelerated when Bianca became the hot topic.

Bianca was the most prominent person at the banquet, but she was not at all happy about the situation. Contrary to her words, she knew that her appearance was not particularly glamorous.

She knows her appearance better than anyone. It was not just because she made her first appearance in the capital that Bianca was overrated. They were just inventing an excuse to give compliments.

Why? To undermine Princess Odelli, no less, out of their desires!

"There must have been a significant age difference when they got married."

"I wouldn't have expected Count Arno to develop this kind of joy."

"Yes, that's right. I think she should take the title of Princess Odelli, who has been called the Rose of Sevran."

It was a pointless conversation. Although they didn't openly discredit Princess Odelli, given that the king clearly cared for her, the intention was clear.

It wasn't even amusing. Obviously, Princess Odelli was much more beautiful than Bianca. Her blonde hair flowed like honey, her blue eyes sparkled beneath her deep-set eyes, and her milky skin was creamy. Even after several decades, the title of Rose of Sevran would not be taken away from Princess Odelli.

But she had no interest in men, she was arrogant and didn't even grant them the slightest glance. There were many people in Sevran who harbored resentment for having courted her and being met with such coldness. Behind them, those who praised Bianca as a younger and more worthy lady than Princess Odelli, hid the not-so-amusing and discreet intentions of men who could approach Princess Odelli if her reputation deteriorated.

Bianca sat expressionless among those who spoke loudly about her. The Princess Odelli, whom she knew, was not someone who would show hostility towards Bianca using this frivolous conversation as an excuse, but Bianca herself couldn't bear to hear more.

Since she didn't know what to say in such an exalted atmosphere, it was necessary to end the conversation at this point.

As if mocking Bianca, the story flowed before she could even open her mouth, without a moment to intervene. In a completely unpleasant manner.

"That jester also recognized the splendid beauty of Countess Arno, that's why he handed her the rose."

"Ah, speaking of roses, Prince Jacob also presented a rose to Countess Arno at the tournament. If it's someone he regularly meets..."

The man who said that was Viscount Huegh. Viscount Huegh, who was far away, spoke so loudly that the eyes of those who were not interested in the topic of Bianca turned towards her. Viscount Huegh, who caught everyone's attention, looked at Bianca and smiled significantly.

It was a sinister smile that made one's skin crawl.

Bianca couldn't ignore the malice mixed in with Viscount Huegh's question.

What is he plotting?

Bianca frowned and tried to refute, but Jacob intervened skillfully.

"Haha. I'm just adoring. The countess's beauty stole my heart."

Jacob's face when he responded to Viscount Huegh's words was very gentle. As if he knew the arrow would turn back towards him.

Of course, the fact that Prince Jacob presented roses to Bianca was not a big deal, so it was a predictable topic, but Bianca instinctively noticed that Jacob was directing the flow of the conversation. Since she knew Viscount Huegh, he must have made him steer the conversation this way.

Bianca laughed inwardly at Jacob. It was clear that he had a plan for his flirtation. What could Jacob gain by pretending to like her? But as long as she clings to her reason, it won't work as Jacob intended.

Bianca's reason cooled by the handsome prince's sweet confession, as she never thought he would like her. Rather, the gaze that looked at her as if wanting to lick her persistently was terrifying.

Everyone burst into laughter at Jacob's witty remark. But they couldn't just laugh without thinking. Each and every one of their laughter felt uncomfortable in the face of Zachary's expression.

Meanwhile, Zachary observed the situation as quietly as the eye of a storm. Those who carelessly opened their mouths in front of his expressionless face, unable to understand what he was thinking, kept their mouths shut, fearing the mistake they might have made. Some thoughtful people even tried to dissuade Jacob.

"But, Prince, why not focus on marriage instead of a court romance?"

"What meaning does marriage have?"

"Still, though..."

"It's a relationship between adults, what's the problem? As long as I like it, I'm happy just to have fun."

Jacob raised his voice instead. No matter how public the court romance was, it was not something to say out loud in the middle of a banquet. Even more so for a single royal family man who has passed 30 years. The forehead of the old king creased.

A king must be careful with his words. If he intervenes mistakenly, it can go against the spirit of the hero, Zachary, or show weakness in front of Castile.

The king seemed displeased with his second son, who was making a fuss over nothing.

As everyone watched, Zachary's mouth, which had been silent until now, opened. His voice was calm and quiet, but it was difficult to pronounce each word with ease.

"To covet something out of place, on the battlefield, is enough to lose your head several times."

"This is not a battlefield, it's the royal palace of the capital of the kingdom."

"The royal palace is also a battlefield in another sense."

Jacob smiled and pretended to be relaxed, but Zachary was formidable as well. Zachary's and Jacob's eyes clashed, and sparks flew.

Not only that, Zachary's three commanders also burned with anger at the idea that their master had been insulted.

The atmosphere turned bloody, as if a sword was about to be drawn at any moment.

The banquet hall chilled as if water had been poured in the fight that didn't take a single step back. The musicians also looked at Zachary and Jacob, while their hands touched the strings.

"Prince. My wife is not happy with your approach. Is it true that you really adore my wife? Do you know that your insensitive comments torment my wife? What you are doing right now is not a love story, but a futile obsession."

Zachary's face was too gentle, and his voice was calm. It was difficult to understand his emotions, but there was definitely a gap.

It was in his clenched fists under the table where his anger was blatantly revealed. He squeezed so tightly that the veins on the back of his hand bulged. Even just talking about Jacob and Bianca demonstrated his deep dislike.

---

Bianca, worried about Zachary, reached out and swept the back of his hand. The warmth of the soft skin on the back of her hand calmed him, but at the same time, it spread throughout his body.

Zachary knew the feeling of this hand touching his bare skin. And just the thought that he might be able to share that feeling with others angered him.

Since last night, they had become an unquestionable and solid couple, but Zachary was still anxious. It was foolish to relax his mind. On the contrary, he was thirstier and more impatient.

Although he spoke to Jacob as if he were arrogant, it was Zachary who was obsessed with jealousy. However, is Zachary's level of obsession different as her husband?

Zachary, who was so thirsty for even a single glance from Bianca, could not stand Jacob's gaze towards Bianca. Enduring the pain of burning nerves, Zachary's eyes glowed blue with anger.

The atmosphere between the two escalated explosively.

It was too trivial a matter for the elderly king to step forward, but not light enough to cover it up. In the end, the first prince, Gautier, intervened.

"Haha. It's the first time Jacob has shown interest in a woman. So it seems he doesn't know how to keep his distance. He must not have meant to insult the Count or the Countess. I hope Count Arno will be forgiving."

Gautier tried to ease the atmosphere.

Although both Zachary and Jacob were dissatisfied with each other, the first prince went so far as to intervene, so they couldn't ignore his efforts. Zachary nodded without hesitation, and Jacob ended the conversation.

However, the topic itself remained with Bianca.

The atmosphere a moment ago was fierce, and no one openly raised their voice when Prince Gautier intervened, but they continued to talk among themselves.

"... But for some reason, the second prince is like that too, right?"

"By the way, even with his escort..."

"Do you mean the escort who gave a rose to the maiden? He gave a rose to the maiden, but he's in that kind of relationship with the countess?"

"Then it might be another escort."

The rumors sparked more rumors.

Bianca snorted upon hearing that she could have an immoral relationship with Gaspard among the voices that passed like the wind, whispering in her ear. How absurd. With "that" Gaspard?

When suspicions arose about her relationship with Jacob, the faces of everyone in Arno hardened, but this time they all burst into absurd laughter. Only Gaspard, the person involved, furrowed his brow slightly, but even Yvonne, to whom the confession was made, couldn't contain her laughter.

But Bianca couldn't laugh. She was dragged along like this over and over again, as if they were trying to mark her.

Zachary, who frowned at the rumors revealing someone's insidious nature, was about to say something, but Bianca shook her head.

"Don't."

Zachary looked at Bianca, as if he couldn't understand. His black eyes glowed with annoyance.

"Are you going to keep listening to that nonsense?"

Bianca smiled faintly and tugged at Zachary's sleeve. Zachary's body easily collapsed at Bianca's touch. Bianca whispered in Zachary's ear.

"Originally, the harvest is done when it's ripe."

The corners of Bianca's lips lifted. Although she hated troublesome and problematic things, she wasn't an easy prey.

Bianca was also aware of the existence of malicious rumors about her. Until now, Bianca wasn't known and only circulated through rumors, but today Bianca finally appeared in front of people.

If they really wanted to ruin her, they wouldn't miss this opportunity. What Bianca sought was the moment when her rival would appear.

Zachary, unaware of Bianca's intentions, still seemed unsatisfied, but as Bianca insisted, he kept his mouth shut.

The rumors about Bianca quickly cooled down as the parties kept their mouths shut. It was also because Zachary looked around the banquet hall with a bloodthirsty gaze.

Bianca told him to stay still, but she didn't say he couldn't glare at them. Zachary looked at each person in the banquet with a sharp gaze. The meddlers shut their mouths one by one, and soon their topic was buried among the music and other conversations.

Amidst the banquet unfolding like this, hunting was discussed among the men. Hunting was a game enjoyed by noble men. A sense of heroic satisfaction rose in the hearts of men as they rode horses to pursue prey, and noble women who participated in hunting by raising falcons also felt like mythical warrior women. Even if their records fell short of the ideal. The nobles passionate about hunting exaggerated their achievements.

"I heard His Highness will hold a hunting contest this summer. I'm looking forward to it. This time I will definitely catch a wolf."

"Haha. Your self-confidence is as high as the sky. I can't lose either. The wolf is mine," they said enthusiastically. However, no matter how exaggerated they were, they were no match for Zachary.

"No matter how much we try to catch a wolf, won't it all end if Count Arno catches a bear in this hunt?" Zachary remarked.

"That's right. Didn't Count Arno catch a bear in the last hunt? I've heard rumors that the bear skins offered by the Count still adorn His Majesty's bedroom..."

The conversation naturally flowed towards Zachary. The laughter of those who were worried that Zachary would sweep away their prey faded.

"Haha. Count Arno will take care of you to some extent."

"Hey, remember that tournament. Didn't he mercilessly defeat his opponent just because he came with the Countess?"

Once again, the conversation turned towards Bianca. However, as if they had forgotten the previous tense atmosphere, the men continued to excitedly look at Zachary.

But that was a story limited to the men. One by one, the women who had been silently absent from the conversation began to speak with Bianca.

"Has the Countess ever hunted?"

"No. I recently learned how to ride a horse."

"Oh, horse riding is a culture, isn't it?"

A noble wife raised her voice as if she was overly surprised by Bianca's response. Bianca couldn't remember who she was, but Bianca's maid, Yvonne, remembered her clearly. She was Celine, the young Viscountess of Volne. Unlike other married aristocratic women, she, still single, had come to the capital dreaming of a romance with a decent man.

But all the attention of the men turned to the Countess Arno. It would have bothered her less if Bianca had been as beautiful as Princess Odelli. But for Celine, there was nothing special about Bianca. Only the second prince flirted with her, and the men who felt she was a great woman simply clung to her out of inertia. She was also envious of her extravagant attire. Every time she faced Bianca, Celine's self-esteem shattered.

And it wasn't just Celine who held resentment towards Bianca. The other women took the hook that Celine had planted.

"Then she won't be able to hunt."

"If she can't even ride a horse properly, she won't be able to train falcons."

"That's right... We often do falconry among ourselves, but unfortunately, Countess Arno won't be able to join."

They mocked Bianca as if she didn't have the ability to raise a falcon. They all laughed and looked at Bianca, wondering how she would react to this insult.

Would her face distort in anger? Or would she lower her head in shame?

But she did neither. Bianca took a sip of wine. Her pale green eyes were so indifferent that it seemed as if she hadn't heard their conversation.

Instead, her husband Zachary's neck grew warm. It was not polite for a man to intervene in women's conversations and intimidate them, so he thought about how to defend Bianca without being a nuisance. But there was no right way.

He could feel his teeth clenched beneath his cold facade.

Unperturbed, Bianca lowered her hand under the table and patted Zachary's thigh. Like stroking a dog's head, his tense thighs loosened slightly.

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